APRIL 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Not only is this post woefully late, but this is probably the shortest bird list for a long time – mainly because I was away from our garden for half of the month! Once again, photographs have been sourced from my archives.

A pair of Southern Boubous creep out from the thicket behind the bird feeders once they have established that the coast is clear. The first port of call is the birdbath on a stand before one or other ventures down to inspect the feeding tray. Laughing Doves still congregate in the trees or on the telephone cable, but are a lot more wary about fluttering down to feed on the ground. Perhaps they too wish to make certain there are no cats around before they do. It is very pleasing to hear the happy chirps from the weavers after their absence. Southern Masked Weavers were the first to return and now Village Weavers are making a come-back.

Several Speckled Pigeons keep watch on proceedings from the roof – one roosts on our bathroom window every night!

Olive Thrushes still call from within the trees and shrubs, yet have become shyer about coming out in the open since the neighbouring cats appeared. By contrast, it is lovely to both see and hear Red-winged Starlings in ever-increasing numbers as the figs begin to ripen on the Natal fig tree. It is always a pleasure to see a Black-headed Oriole.

Several Black-eyed Bulbuls chatter merrily in the foliage before tucking into the fruit put out for them.

There is plenty of natural fruit and seeds around to attract Cape White-eyes as well as the Speckled Mousebirds that are such fun to observe.

I will round off April’s round-up of garden birds with the real stalwarts, the Bronze Manikins, that arrive daily to flit about the feeder – always shifting up to make room for yet another one to join them there.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

MARCH 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

First of all, thank you to everyone who left encouraging comments and useful advice as well as offers of assistance when I lamented that the media storage on my free version of WordPress was 100% full and this wouldn’t allow me to feature any more photographs. After mulling over and considering the cost of changing to WordPress Pro (the only plan offered) against my enjoyment of blogging, I opened my dashboard with a degree of reluctance this morning to start that expensive process … only to find that WP has acknowledged that I actually still have plenty of space, which means I can continue for free for a while longer! So, back to business and my monthly round-up of garden birds:

This is the first month ever since I received my first digital camera years ago that I do not have a single photograph of a garden bird in my folder. It is not from lack of trying as I have taken my camera outside several times … it is an indication of the impact of having the three cats from next door using my garden as their hunting ground! My list below shows there have been birds: most of them have paid fleeting visits or have hidden higher up in the foliage, not daring to spend much time either on the ground or at the feeders. Forgive me then for trawling my archives to illustrate this month’s review of garden birds.

Red-winged Starlings have started appearing in greater numbers once more. I mostly see them in the Natal Fig in the front garden or in the tall Erythrina caffra in the back garden. This is a female starling photographed in 2016.

It is always a delight to hear the distinctive calls of a Bokmakierie for they do not often visit this side of town. I have seldom seen them actually visit the bird feeders; they catch caterpillars and other insects all over the garden and so are probably not particularly perturbed by the presence of the cats. This one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2015.

The Southern Boubou are naturally shy birds that often skulk about in the undergrowth – leaving them vulnerable to cats. I have heard them a few times and have really only had one confirmed sighting this month. Nonetheless, this one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2018.

The duets of Black-collared Barbets echo throughout the garden during the particularly warm days. They are generally cautious about approaching the feeding tray anyway, but have been particularly wary of late. This one was photographed in 2015.

The Cape White-eyes can be seen flitting through the foliage and visiting the nectar feeder daily. The ones below were, however, photographed in Cape Town in 2014.

Lastly, from 2016, is a photograph of the very pretty Grey-headed Bush Shrike. One has made several appearances in our garden this month but has been almost impossible to pin down to photograph as it moves very quickly through the leaves of our many trees.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
White-rumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

FEBRUARY 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

This has been a very hot month and the neighbouring cats have been relentless in using our garden as a hunting ground. The birds featuring on my list below are regarded as real warriors by me – even though in many cases my sightings of them have been fleeting. They regularly visit the bird baths in this heat, and have been able to visit the nectar feeder in relative safety as well as the hanging feeders. It is the birds that prefer feeding on the ground that do so in particular fear of being caught by a cat.

Six birds have made a brief foray into the garden for the first time this year: African Hoopoes are intermittent visitors which mainly come when the ground is soft enough for them to probe it with their long beaks; the Black Cuckoo-shrike was absent last month; we seldom get to see a Bokmakierie in the garden; a Fork-tailed Drongo gave a fine aerial display across the garden the other day; a Red-fronted Tinkerbird came tantalisingly close to me but would not be photographed; and a few Yellow Weavers paid a flying visit to the hanging feeders before disappearing.

The Hadeda Ibises do a good job of waking the neighbourhood every morning – fortunately this is gradually becoming later as the sun takes longer to peer over the mountains. During this heat it is comforting to hear the burbling sounds of the Laughing Doves from within the shade of the trees.

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds have been making their presence known and rush back and forth from the nectar feeder – never in good light or when I have my camera handy though! Cape Turtle Doves call in the late afternoons and the Black-eyed Bulbuls wolf down bits of fruit – always with a wary eye open for a cat lurking about. The Bronze Manikins mostly take food from the feeder these days as picking fallen seeds up from the ground is far too dangerous for them.

I often hear the Cape Crows go ‘boil boil’ during the day. At least one of them enjoys calling from the top of the cypress tree next door after sunset.

The pair of Grey-headed Sparrows have become very wary of approaching the feeders and almost seem to keep a look out for each other.

The colour scheme this month appears to be a sombre one – a reflection of the times perhaps.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Diederik Cuckoo
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-winged Starling
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow Weaver

DECEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

The rain received this month has been a glorious change from years of drought – not that the drought is broken. Nonetheless, our garden is green and filled with flowering trees. So quick has been the growth after the rain that even though I have already pruned around the bird feeders, I shall soon have to do so again if I want a reasonable view of the birds!

The White-rumped Swifts have been scything overhead in their daily search for insects and – alas – the Lesser-striped Swallows had just completed their mud nest when it fell down. This intrepid pair have built another one around the side of the house, where I hope they will enjoy greater success and get to rear at least one brood. The Laughing Doves continue to gather in the mornings, waiting for the seed to be put out. Recently they have been put to flight several times by the neighbouring cat which, sadly, has caught more than one of them during the course of the month.

The nest of the Hadeda Ibis has fallen apart since the two chicks have learned to fly and no longer need that sanctuary. Here they are inspecting our swimming pool. They still sometimes choose to lie down on the warm bricks and are occasionally accompanied by their mother.

The nectar-bearing flowers are on the trees and shrubs this month – Tipuana, Pompon, Cape Chestnut, Cape Honeysuckle, and Plumbago – and so I considered myself fortunate to get this shot of a Greater Double-collared Sunbird perched high up in the Tipuana tree.

Although I featured Bronze Manikins last month, I cannot resist showing you this one swinging on a creeper in the front garden. These tiny birds have also been enjoying the seeds in the wild grass growing in our back garden.

With all the comings and goings of the various Common Fiscals, I have been intrigued observing the progress of this offspring of Spotty. Having been brought to the feeding table several times, it has become more independent and is quick to chase other birds away.

Here it is perched on a branch with Spotty.

A strange phenomenon I have experienced for several years now is the annual December visit from a single Southern Red Bishop. It appears at the feeder for a day or two, then disappears not to be seen again for another year.

Apart from the weavers, regular visitors to the feeder are a pair of Grey-headed Sparrows. This one appears to be telling its mate to join in the seed feast.

My bird list for this month:

Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Forest Canary
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

OCTOBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There has been a lot of avian activity in the garden during October. Green Woodhoopoes have made regular forays to seek food in the dry wood of some of the trees that are succumbing to the drought. Their cheerful cackles are sure to uplift one’s spirits. Streaky-headed Canaries have become regular visitors – usually during the quieter part of the afternoons. Then, the three Common Fiscals vie with each other to get to the container of ‘special food’ I put on the table when I am outside. Meneer is still the only one to perch next to me to help itself or to take food from my hand though. Hadeda Ibises remind everyone in the neighbourhood at least half an hour before sunrise that a new day is dawning. One of their number sits patiently on her nest above the wash line for much of every day. The basket-shaped nest is about four metres above the ground and has been constructed from sturdy sticks and smaller twigs. These will have been gathered by the male.

White-rumped Swifts wasted no time to start a family once they had arrived earlier this month. This was easy for them as they are again using the cosy, well-built mud nest outside our front door, which they usurped from the Lesser-striped Swallows a few years ago. The latter took a few days rest and are currently rebuilding their mud nest under the eaves at the back of our house that broke soon after their departure at the end of last summer. Love is definitely in the air, and the Cape Crows are no exception. I watched a pair of them courting in the Erythrina for well over an hour. I don’t know where they have chosen to nest, but we hear the two of them calling to each other throughout most of each day now.

The cuckoos are back in force too: Red-chested Cuckoo (widely known here as the Piet-my-vrou), Diederik Cuckoo, as well as Klaas’s Cuckoo fill the air with cheerful calls – the mournful call of the Black Cuckoo-shrike provides a sharp contrast. A Pin-tailed Whydah in full breeding regalia visits now and then. It has obviously chosen a territory somewhere else for it drops in for food and I have not seen any of its wives yet. Laughing Doves regularly sun themselves in the sandy area of the garden.

As some brighter colour is needed, here is a Black-collared Barbet waiting to take its turn at the feeding tray.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-Shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift